Published September 10, 2012
LONDON – Thousands jammed the streets of London Monday, waving flags and cheering Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as the 45-day Olympics festival came to a close with a victory parade.
Reuters reports at least 800 competitors rode 21 floats through the center of the host city, to mark the end of the games. The enthusiastic crowds were not only lauding athletes, but also the thousands of unpaid volunteers who helped welcome visitors from all over the world to London.
Sports fans hailed British athletes in the procession -- including Olympic track and field medalist Jessica Ennis and Paralympic wheelchair racer David Weir, who won his record-breaking fourth gold medal over the weekend.
Britain is celebrating the performance of its athletes, whom exceeded expectations -- finishing third in Olympic medals behind the United States and China, but ahead of Russia, Korea and Germany. Britain also was third in Paralympic medals, behind China and Russia.
International Paralympic Committee head Philip Craven said the games were the best Paralympics ever, drawing huge crowds and millions of TV viewers. A peak audience of more than 7 million in the U.K. tuned in to watch the closing ceremony Sunday.
Thousands gathered at the Olympic Stadium for the Paralympic Games closing. The spectacular finale featured a parade of athletes, more than 1,200 performers, and appearances by the rock band Coldplay and pop stars Rihanna and Jay-Z.
The end of the show featured the passing of the Paralympic flag to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, the next host of the games. Spectators also watched fireworks along the Thames River and Olympic Park, and a projected message on the Houses of Parliament that read: "Thank you London, thank you U.K."